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Banga’s nomination as WB head holds great promise


World Bank president, Ajay Banga. FILE PHOTO | AFP

President Biden’s nomination of Ajay Banga for the position of World Bank president is a sign of America’s appreciation of the private sector’s contribution to global policy formulation as well as impactful execution.

Banga’s professional experience and upbringing have exceptionally prepared him for this role.

The World Bank’s mission centres on two goals; ending extreme poverty and promoting shared prosperity.

In these, the destiny of a majority of the world’s population at the bottom of the pyramid is given intentional focus.

What is required is a mindset that combines policy formulation with executive leadership, and deep knowledge of the realities that characterise the daily lives of the majority of people living in developing countries.

These include food insecurity, climate change and the attendant challenges of prolonged droughts, stagnating economies characterised by financial exclusion, unemployment, high costs of living, resource-triggered conflicts, displacements of communities in search of peace, access to quality education, clean energy and affordable healthcare that mark the daily struggles for more than half the world’s population.

I had the privilege of meeting Ajay Banga in 2013 during his tour of duty to South Africa, Kenya and Egypt in his role as President and CEO of Mastercard.

Since then, my subsequent interactions with him have revealed his values; a strong commitment to human improvement and inclusion and ensuring that no one is left behind.

He believes that every human being and every household deserves to live a dignified and happy life.

Read: WB president nominee backs debt relief for poor countries

Banga's empathetic heart as a leader will be instrumental in putting the well-being of societies at the centre of his development strategy at the World Bank.

Furthermore, his nomination at a time when the world is, resetting is very timely. The World Bank was founded in 1944, with the aim of extending loans to help rebuild countries devastated by World War II.

Today, the globe is resetting and rebuilding after the ravaging impacts of the Covid-19 scourge that morphed from a global health crisis to a social and economic disaster.

The World Bank needs a fresh perspective, with novel solutions to drive the rebuilding of economies that have carried the greatest burden of the pandemic and the resource impacts of the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

We are witnessing another 1944 moment, and the choice of the leader to deliver modern reconstruction with innovation, resourcefulness and pragmatism will determine the speed and success of the World Bank agenda.

Banga fits this bill for several reasons: First, a leader is the total sum of his upbringing and experiences.

His foundational years in India, a developing country, and his career in both the public and private sectors that saw him roll up his sleeves to deliver financial inclusion and microfinance access to billions of people gives him first-hand knowledge of the needs and aspirations of communities and economies in emerging markets.

Secondly, his tour of duty on the global scene including most recently serving as CEO of Mastercard for more than 11 years, a global financial institution known for its commitment to technology-driven financial inclusion to leapfrog financial access, particularly in the Global South, prepared him well for this role.

Banga left an indelible mark in Africa where he championed the democratisation of technology usage in the dignified delivery of social safety net payments among the elderly, vulnerable, and displaced communities.

Financial institutions, such as Equity Group who have the opportunity to partner with Mastercard, benefitted from Ajay's disruptive and progressive mindset, his commitment to making positive and sustainable change, and his dedication to improving lives and livelihoods while ensuring no one is left behind.

He championed disruptive payment solutions such as “digital food” while working with financial institutions, governments, and development agencies.

Vulnerable communities were equipped with solutions such as multi-wallet digital cards to access money for food thus creating efficiency and transparency in food distribution, while also empowering individuals with dignity in life.

By transitioning from the global private sector to the global development sector, Ajay will bring a wealth of first-hand knowledge to the challenges that the World Bank faces in securing an equitable future for all human beings.

Banga carries deep conviction and demonstrates dedication towards social economic empowerment.

Also read: World Bank lines up to fund Kenya's digital drive

The challenge of driving a development institution such as the World Bank at a time when the world is reconstructing all over again requires a leader who is agile, connected with communities, empathetic and bold, yet centred on human principles of equality and justice and someone who is not new to the social economic challenges of the developing world.

Ajay Banga fits the bill of that leader.

The writer is the group CEO and MD, of Equity Group Holdings Plc.